AOPA Pilot Magazine - July 2013 - 37
In 2013, the exhibit will travel to more than 25 locations, including EAA
AirVenture in Oshkosh. There’s never a charge to schools or youth organizations, although Rise Above does seek sponsors at airshow locations
and accepts tax-deductible donations. Its principal sponsor is Texas Flying
Legends Museum in Houston. A full calendar and more information are
available at the Red Tail Squadron website (www.redtail.org).
White says the Rise Above message can be especially important for youth who may
be at risk, because they can see firsthand that the Tuskegee Airmen overcame obstacles
that seemed insurmountable. “They were told they didn’t have the physical, moral, or
mental capacity to operate those machines,” he says.
THE AIRPLANE AND ITS PILOT
The distinctive P–51C Tuskegee Airmen can be seen when the exhibit is on display at airshows, fly-ins, and other aviation venues.
On a May afternoon in 2012, Tuskegee Airmen sat outside the Rise Above trailer at
Culpeper Regional Airport in Virginia. The exhibit had just finished a three-day run
at Andrews Air Force Base, and plans were to take the program to public schools in
Virginia. Unfortunately, a week of mandatory testing had left no room in the schedule
for Culpeper’s students to view the film. The show would go on, however, for about two
dozen home-schooled children and Boy Scouts who were coming out to the airport.
White, producer Kara Martinelli, and a group of CAF volunteers were on their hands
and knees assembling the screen. A hard drive that had been shipped overnight had been
damaged, and a new hard drive must be made operational before the students arrive.
Tuskegee Airmen’s pilot, Doug Rozendaal, recalled attending Canada’s World Fair in
1964 as a 10-year-old, and viewing a 360-degree panoramic film in which the audience
got to “fly” in the open cockpit of a biplane. “I spent the next 40 years” with airplanes, he
said of that film’s impact. He hopes Rise Above will have the same type of effect on this
generation. “If the objective is to cause people to realize their hopes and opportunities,”
he said, “it has to rise to the level of an experience.”
Donated to the CAF in the 1960s, Tuskegee Airmen did not fly until 2001, after retired
Navy pilot Don Hinz took it on. He had envisioned using the airplane as an educational
tool—it was making airshow appearances in support of the Tuskegee Airmen story—but
in 2004, Hinz died from injuries he suffered after the airplane crashed during an airshow performance in Minnesota. The Red Tail Squadron decided to rebuild the P–51 a
second time, and CAF Project Leader Brad Lang spent five years and raised $1 million
to see it airborne once again.
Today’s group of children filed back outside after viewing the film and studying
the artwork on the side of the trailer—images of the airmen, and a set of principles:
“Aim High,” “Believe in Yourself,” “Use Your Brain,” “Never Quit,” “Be Ready to Go,”
and “Expect to Win.” Each child had been given a bright-red key tag with those same
The children lined up a hundred yards away from the P–51. The throaty roar of the
Rolls-Royce (Packard) Merlin engine filled the air as Rozendaal started Tuskegee Airmen.
One of the CAF volunteers was about to get a special treat: a ride in the airplane, which
has been modified with a rear seat. The kids were excited to see the airplane they had just
watched on film start up and taxi away, and they cheered and clapped when Rozendaal
took off and then returned to make a low pass.
www.aopa.org/pilot AOPA PILOT | 37
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